Thursday, February 26, 2015
Wood Stoves Safe in Virginia
Usually, I want to pour that sort a toxic-waste Martini. But today, I will reluctantly raise a glass to them. I actually believe they led a worthwhile effort, by protecting citizens' right to heat their homes with wood. I have been using this source of heat since December 2012, and in the coldest weather it saves me $200-$300 per month.
That's not big money for me, and I do have to cut, transport, and season my wood. For poor citizens in my part of the state, however, wood is the only source they can afford. In a cold winter, my neighbors and I each need about four full cords: a stack 32 feet long by four high by four deep.
Wood stoves may well contribute to local air pollution, especially in areas subject to temperature inversions that trap smoke. We've a newer stove that is efficient and burns hot with good seasoned oak. I burn other stuff in a pinch or as kindling, of course.
If Virginia lawmakers had not acted, we might have EPA regulations that would affect new stove installations, not a ban but regulations about the types of stoves that could be used. In theory, I do not oppose that. The poor with older stoves would be grandfathered in, including my current stove that cost us about $3000 for the stove and installing a stainless steel chimney liner. It has paid for itself now, even with an annual chimney and stove cleaning that runs me $250.
My fear is, however, rather like those of some gun owners. Over time, initial regulations would tighten and threaten my right to burn wood.
Government has a role in protecting public health and insuring the natural world is not damaged. I'd like stronger and faster action on climate change, but burning coal is a far worse threat to our planet than tens of millions of wood stoves in colder parts of the nation. Coal ash spills into rivers when containment fails, and mountain-top removal is a great evil of our age. Unlike coal fields, commercial forests can be managed in a way that is sustainable for fuel and the environment; my stove consumes about two matures oaks per year.
We have made progress with new cars that are more fuel efficient, thanks to CAFE standards recently adopted, and that initiative too reduces pollutants. For wood stoves, EPA might work with industry and provide tax incentives for innovations that reduce emissions. If the car makers manage to do it, so can Dutch West, who built my stove.
Just don't come for my stove, ever, let alone those of my less affluent neighbors. For now, my state officials have "got our backs" on this issue.